New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wins landslide second term

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Ardern captured the hallowed center ground in New Zealand politics with a blend of empathetic leadership and skilled crisis management that has also won her fame abroad.

Aided by her successful handling of the coronavirus outbreak, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won a second term scoring the highest votes that any party has achieved since the current political system was introduced in 1996.

With 87% of the vote counted, Ardern’s centre-Left Labour Party won 49% support -- heading to its biggest share of the vote since the 1930s. The opposition center-right National Party slumped to 27%, its worst showing since 2002.

"Tonight, New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in at least 50 years," Ardern was quoted by CNN as saying in her victory speech on Saturday night. Referring to the difficult times ahead for New Zealand, Ardern promised that the party will govern for every New Zealander.

 “Over the next three years there is much work to do. We will build back better from the Covid crisis. We have the mandate to accelerate our response and our recovery,” she said.

According to Hindustan Times, Ardern, 40, has captured the hallowed center ground in New Zealand politics with a blend of empathetic leadership and skilled crisis management that has also won her fame abroad. Her successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated those strengths, drowning out criticism that she hasn’t delivered on some key promises during her first term in office.

The landslide victory will give Ardern more scope to deliver the transformational government she promised when she came to power three years ago, particularly if the Greens push her to be more progressive on issues such as poverty and climate change. Still, she will be wary of alienating centrist voters with increased social spending at a time when debt is spiraling due to the government’s pandemic response.

Voters are rewarding Ardern for crushing community transmission of Covid-19 while countries like the U.K., U.S. and even neighboring Australia are still battling to contain the virus.

Main opposition National Party leader Judith Collins conceded defeat in a speech earlier, saying she had spoken to Ardern to congratulate her. Collins, who struggled to gain traction against the wildly popular Ardern during the campaign, pointed to the economic challenges facing the nation as it recovers from the pandemic.

“New Zealand is in for a tough economic ride and it is going to need better fiscal policy than we have so far seen,” she said.

National has been in disarray, changing its leader twice this year and suffering a string of scandals that eroded its claim to be a stronger team than Labour and a better economic manager. By contrast, Ardern has been mobbed by crowds on the campaign trail in a repeat of the “Jacinda-mania” first seen in 2017 (with inputs from agencies)

Image Credit: CNN.com

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